Tuesday, May 31, 2011

More risk...some reward.

"Hey, what category are you in"? I got that question 2 times during the Stampede. Amusing in one way and a total boost in another. The start for the Sister's Stampede was well executed. The Cat 3 riders went 30 minutes before the Pro and Cat 1 riders. The Pros and Cat 1 left 5 minutes before the Cat 2 men, then the Clydesdale, then the Cat 2 woman. Perfectly spread out. Since my group was last I was last! Not kidding, very last for about 5 miles. Then the hills came and I caught a couple of people. I wasn't taking my sweet time either. I was riding as fast as the synapses in my brain could take in the terrain. XC MTBer's have this perfect balance of Power, Speed and Endurance. I find their athleticism fascinating. Oh, and let's not forget Guts!

The course includes a loop that must be completed twice. By the time I arrived at the junction the pros and cat 1 riders were coming around for their second loop. Monitors held me at the junction while the first group of speedsters launched onto the trail. I quickly remounted and made my way into the loop. Just as I was getting my MTB on more pros and cat 1 riders came from behind like a freight train. I unclipped and pulled to the side and watched them go by with amazement. With incredible speed and power they took on the rocky butte like it was nothing. I realized this was just the beginning of many more pullovers. I decided to make the most of it by tucking right behind the group and trying to stay with them as long as possible. This is where I got the question about which category I was in. I could stay with them on the short climbs but the minute the terrain would flatten, become technical or head downhill they were gone before I could get my gears changed! I played this game several times and was proud I could climb so easily. Seemingly effortless. Maybe it's the 6 inches I cut off my hair J

I was really happy with my day. I rode everything, didn't fall and took more risks than I have before. I am still super slow compared to all the other riders despite the fact I felt like I was riding very fast. At some points I was doing 13+ MPH on single track that is not straight. All the trails seemed to be very curvy with a Ponderosa Pine on every corner just begging to be a bounce pad. I clearly have endurance which is no shock. After I finished I could have gone out and rode it again and most likely faster. I was completely fine. Not at all fatigued. My cardio was barely taxed. I am really banking on this being my only hope for Leadville. My ability to stay in the game.

I ran 14 miles of the course the day before while Bill, Alex and Ryan rode. It was great to watch Alex and Ryan (Alex's best bud) ride with absolutely not a care in the world. Alex jumped rocks and showed me some of his best moves. Desperately trying to teach me how it's done. The boys rode the short course (Cat 3) and had a total ball. They learned a bit about pushy people and nasty un-sportsman like attitudes. One kid told Alex to F-Off when he asked to

pass. Alex replied by passing his butt and dusting him but good. He handled it more maturely than I would for sure. Alex is too cool to wear bike shorts and his butt is paying the price but he said it was worth it because he had no intention of wearing those diaper shorts (his words). Bill had a great ride on the long course but took a bad endo onto a boulder. he's fine but beat up. He loves his new bike!

The next day I had a 10 mile run. It was a rough go. I was low on food for 2 days and felt it. I'm trying to drop a couple of lbs and my body is adjusting to having to consume some of itself. Next up is a 6 hour ride on Saturday and long run on Sunday. With only 4 weeks to go before the first Leadwoman event it's packed from here on out.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Loading up!

Loading the bikes up for another MTB race! I am actually excited. A definite shift from the "oh crap" attitude. My bike and I are getting along nicely. We have been working on our relationship a lot lately. Mostly I am to blame for not trusting her. Together we have bettered our time on both hills and rolling terrain. My brakes are getting a reprieve from the constant death grip. This Sunday is the Sisters Stampede. A 28 mile single track race. This should be an interesting test. Can I hold my ground and not steer myself right into a ponderosa pine. Bill has his new bike and it is nothing short of amazing. He's seems completely confident that he can ride it without incident. I think he's probably right since he doesn't flinch at corners, hills, rocks or speed. Hoping Alex will get the itch and ride the Cat 3 course (short version). We will work on him and his buddy on Saturday while out there.

Running has been coming along nicely as well. Ran 6 hours in the Gorge last weekend and beat my 4/2/11 time by over 20 minutes. That was exciting. Progress is always a motivator. Maybe the tent is giving that cape I have been waiting for. Erin and Micheal trotted along ahead which was a nice pull. I love chasing friends. It would have been nice if they would have shown a slight bit of fatigue!

I am now sleeping soundly at 9,000 feet wondering if this tent is really working! My cat and I sleep really well in there. On Monday I will set it 10,000. I had a negative split run last week and noticed a bit more uptake. My pace wasn't faster. Mostly because my legs were fried from other workouts but it did feel easier. My heart rate was about 7 beats lower for the pace I was generating. I joked with Bill. If this tent works we should make our whole bedroom an oxygen tent. He looked at me as if I might be serious. A long pause waiting to determine if I was joking.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Lion Sleeps Tonight...

Sleeping is my strong suit. I can sleep anywhere. I am not a napper but I basically have two modes, On or Off. I was never one of those kids that stayed up late. As an adult I still sleep a ton. When Bill and I met he was concerned that I might sleep too much. Even when stressed I can sleep like a baby. I average around 9 hours a night sometimes getting even 11! So when the Altitude tent went up I wondered how it would impact my beauty rest.

I can safely say I am still out like a light. In fact, that thing makes me sleep in a coma! Bill woke up yelling at me. Wondering if I had died. I have also been dreaming relentlessly and when I have to go to the bathroom it's a chore to drag myself out of sleep.

We snaked all the tubes in through a small window of our bedroom. The noisy compressor is outside the door. I can't even hear it. The tube that sucks out the air inside the tent and replaces it with less oxygenated air sounds like a heavy breather. No louder than my cat who refuses to get out of the tent! I actually got worried about him. He loves that thing and sleeps like a dead animal in it. I shook him wildly one night just to be sure he was still alive. Alex searched the web to be sure it was safe for animals :).

So far I have been in it 6 nights and am sleeping at 7500 feet. I will move it to 8500 on Sunday after my 6 hour Gorge run this weekend. Besides the coma like sleeping I have noticed a bit of loopyness. Seems I think everything is really funny right now and am busting myself up constantly. Also, my recovery from some weight sessions has not been as quick as it usually is. I have also dropped a bit over a pound in one week. I think that might be water from the frequent bathroom visits. On the forth night I had a mild headache while reading inside it. I don't know if any of this is related to the thin air sleeping but those are some things I am noticing.

Bill and I made a pact when we got married to never purposely sleep apart. The only time we sleep apart is when one of us is out of town. I was feeling really guilty about this but Bill's travel schedule is sort of intense right now. While I am over there feeling guilty he is perched happily in the center of our king sized bed seeming to be in heaven!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Digging out of the mud

Is a mouth guard necessary for mountain biking? I think it might be a good idea. One good long decent on a very gravel road left my mouth chattering like one of those weird mouth toys. You know the ones that are an exaggerated replica of a mouth. You turn it on and it chatters wildly. 6 miles straight down dropping 3000 feet on a gravel that is more like small rocks wakes up the body. Butt perched way back behind the seat with my hands firmly gripping the handlebars I tried to let myself fly. Reaching speeds of 25 MPH on this decent is pretty good but it wasn't stress free. My eyes didn't blink for fear of hitting an unseen dip or large boulder. My arms were completely itching when I reached the bottom. The cheese grater terrain made my entire body shake rapidly causing this intense itching sensation. It Made me wonder what are bodies go through when we descend on foot. The impact of every step is resonating through our bodies but we rarely feel it. That's really cool. Our bodies can absorb so much. I think I will be nicer to myself after a big run.

This descent didn't come for free. I had to ride up in order to experience the downhill itch. This was my first trip to the Gorge with my bike. A 5+ mile straight up climb and I rode 80% of it. The other 20% was a dismounted hike. Hiking with a bike is slow and not so fun. The bike shoes have that forced heal drop and my calves were screaming. The intense ache was making want to remount! Never thought I would say that! My heart rate was screaming in the threshold range. It felt like it was going to jump right out of my body as I pedaled with all my might and speed. While running this feeling is drowned out by the movement and the impact. I can't hear or feel the intense beating even during hill repeats but on the bike it's loud.

I am officially pretty good at remounting on hill. A learned skill for sure. Getting the gearing just right and quickly clipping in with one foot. Then applying enough force to get your butt up and your other foot clipped. All the while not catching your butt or bike pad on the seat!

This last week was a good recovery from Miwok. After a short and well needed vacation it was all bike. One short run but all the other days were long biking sessions. Each had their own goal. Once cornering session. Learning and practicing how to power in and out of corners. This was fun and a good mental exercise. The 2 hour session really helped my legs recover. I woke the next day feeling so much better. I had one long 3.5 hour session of hill climbing. I took on the Gorge and was surprised as how much power I had for the climb. This was a nice confidence builder with regards to Leadville. The next day I got a 2.5 hour recovery ride on trails. Bill and I headed to Silver Falls on probably one of the worst weather days. 45 degrees and rain. I was in a pouty mood on the way out. The cold wet weather was going to bite and who knows how bad the trails would be.

When we arrived I was reluctant. I voiced my dislike of the weather and Bill said, "Let's do this". So much great support but I think he really just wanted to play in the mud. That's exactly what we did! The trails were horribly muddy and wet. Choosing a line was easy. Just follow the water runoff. That was the best place to ride albeit wet. This was hilarious. The mud so deep we would have to bonsai with a "no guts no glory" attitude to get through the 8 inch mud. Our other choice was to dismount and walk but there was no place to put your feet so you would sink down anyway. Might as well make a charge at it. Bill cracked me up! We were soaked, full of mud, clods in my hair, mud up our butts and back, crank shaft caked with dirt and our shoes were mud boots. We didn't have to compete with other bikes or people because all of them were smart enough to stay home. With the conditions as they were climbing the trails was work. Descending was great skill building. I am ready to run again but this MTBing is some of the best recovery I can come up with.

Time is flying and find myself getting a bit stressed. Sophie commented, "keep your eye on the prize". That was welcomed advice. This is when it gets hard. The Leadwoman events are inching closer and time is ticking. I am beginning to wonder why I do this stuff! My words yesterday to Bill were and excuse the language but it's a good indicator of how I was feeling. I said, "Sometimes this perseverance crap I have gets old"! He busted up. I didn't find his reaction amusing and needed clarification because I was serious. It would be so much easier to say, "I'm out, let's go to the beach". We had a small discussion where I expressed my frustration. Basically I was and may still be having a moment. A moment where I wonder if this is worth it. He asked me a good question, "Ronda, worth what"? I gave him the list, time, sacrifices, the frustration (on days when it's cold and horrible), the self doubt, fatigue, etc. I laid it all out. He said it's worth every bit of it because it's who you are. He said, "Anything worth achieving is hard". He's right. Every time I ponder the idea of NOT finishing what I started I get edgy and unsettled. I feel weak and worthless. Although, there is a piece of me that would like to be lazy. So, this is where this perseverance crap comes in handy I suppose. An old friend once told me, "Keep swimming upstream". So like a salmon I am going to continue to swim upstream. I am not looking for any sympathy. I just thought I would express what goes on in my mind when I feel down and unmotivated. Sometimes I wonder if I go here mentally as a distraction from the hard work. Ruminating in self doubt. It's easier to say it's not worth it and why. Quitting is the "right" thing to do and is certainly tempting at times like these. Those "outs" as I call them are legitimate. I have obligations as a wife, mother and friend. All the obligations are exactly what I want. They are not forced on me. I want to be a great wife and mom and good friend too. I don't want to miss out on anything. I don't want my family to sacrifice their time, I don't want to prevent them from doing anything because I have to train, I don't want to miss out any coffee dates or long runs with friends. I want have my house clean and tidy. I want to cook fresh meals and feed my family well. Balance perfectly the things I cherrish so it all works. Sometimes it would be easier if someone would say you "can't do this". However, all those wonderful obligations won't cut me any slack. They stare right back at me and say, in much nicer words, get your butt back on the trail or on that bike. Laura Kantor posted a statement on her facebook the other day. It talked about living in the moment and being present. I don't do that much. I am planner, a linear thinker, a cause and effect type. Always concerned with the future. I don't necessary like surprises or unforeseen circumstances. Go with the flow is not how I roll. J I don't think things happen for a reason we create them. However, the statement she posted came at a time when I needed to read it. I need to stop thinking about June, July and August. I need to start being present and engaged in the work right in front of me. Hopefully this will be the last whining post but I can't guarantee anything.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Thank You!

All your comments disappeared on my Miwok report. I want you to know I read them and posted them. Thanks for all the nice and most certainly motivating thoughts. I appreciate it.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Not everything is cake and ice cream!

(photo by: Jean Pommier)

Full of mixed emotions about Miwok leaves me sort of blank. I am generally well intentioned when it comes to running. Be it to push myself or simply enjoy the day I have a plan and do a pretty good job playing it out. Leading up to Miwok I was tired. Ready for the short taper hoping it would leave my legs fresh. More importantly I hoped I would get fired up. Miwok is one of my favorite courses. It offers all the things I love about ultra running. The scenery speaks for itself and the trails are awesome. It's brutally touch with its 11,000 feet of climbing and descending. I like the mix of trails and gravel roads. I love the out and back section where I get to see all the front runners pushing and pursuing their day. It showcases the camaraderie in this sport that's unbeatable. Finally, I love the feel of Miwok.

The week leading up to race I began to feel some energy coming back. I happily reported that to Matt. My legs had some spring during a couple of my short runs and my overall posture began to return. No more slumped and wilted. I have come to embrace the fact that my butt is never NOT sore. The MTBing is really firing up my glutes especially the medius. This is a welcomed addition. My medius has generally been a weak muscle but I can now say it's stronger. With that growth is soreness and I have not get been able to get ahead of it. The benefits outweigh the discomfort. The additional strength is making me a better runner with a nicer gate. Let's face it though, being sore and running 100K makes you more sore.

Covered in Ivy Block in the darkness ready to hit the beach and begin this journey I was disturbingly at ease. I made a rough pace chart so Bill and Nico would know when to expect me. My main goal for the day was to stay on course. I am 4 for 4 at taking a wrong turn at Miwok and it's well marked. I wanted to keep a close eye on ribbons and not follow anyone blindly. Also, I wanted to run strong on the back half. I had no idea what to expect with regards to my pace. However, I wanted to not go over 12 hours.

The beach start is unique but bogs up with people as they make their way onto the single track. It took me almost 5 minutes before I could get onto the trail. I am blaming my 12:04 finish time on that! As the race began I felt really strong on the climbs. My uphill running has started to

benefit from my ever growing glutes, ha, ha. I kept it to a dull roar as the road began the steep and long ascent. It was the perfect temperature but the wind was a bit much at times. There was the occasional wind gust from behind and I milked it for the whole 5 seconds. The headwinds came more often and weren't nearly as fun. I arrived at Tennessee late and Bill let me know. I gave him a glance of disapproval. I didn't care, didn't he know that? I left with no real intention except to continue running by feel. On my way to Pantoll I had a good time chatting with runners. I wasn't focused at all but the occasional glance down at my garmin would reveal a 18 min pace! Crap! I would run then find myself again caught up in conversation and generally enjoying myself and the view. The sun was awesome! I fell in love once again with at area. I think I could live there. Arriving at Pantoll I got a very calm non expressional welcome from Bill and Nico. Perplexed by their lack of emotion I pulled my pace chart of my pack and looked at my time. I was horrified when I found out I was 35 minutes behind my plan. I had taken my run by feel approach too far. I am a total comfort runner by nature. I am also and experience junkie. I like to take in people, things, ideas, views and thoughts. I lose myself almost always in the experience. I wouldn't trade this approach for anything because of the enriching nature it has brought to my life. But, there comes a point when the experience falls off the curve. Being this laissez-fair does not yield the desired experience. Right after Pantoll is where the "run by feel" experience starting taking a nose dive. It was like I suddenly went from a leisurely coffee date with friends to being late for a really important date.

At this point (mile 20) I wasn't sure what to do. Emotions, mostly negative "you suck" ones took over. I moved a bit faster but was more focused on trying to determine how this happened. After my pit stop at Bolinas (mile 27) I decided to get over it and make a choice. There was two ways this could go. I could just continue at this pace and finish really late or I could not pull my

head out, focus and make the best of it. I chose door number 2 because I knew I would not be at all pleased with the outcome if I chose door number 1. The experience junkie would need rehab.

I was already sore. In fact by mile 10 my hips were tightening. This may have been part of the reason I was so blah at the beginning. Subconsciously I may have been trying to preserve my glutes. But, that is not the way it works. If it's sore early it's going to get more sore, then you deal with it, shut it out, move on to something else like your feet or whatever might hurt.

My decision to take door number 2 and push was the right one but it was hard. I ran well from that point on. Pushing really hard on the second half. I arrived at mile 34 at 6:50 ish. Making 12 hours was going to be a stretch. 29 more miles. Bill ran with me from Bolinas (mile 41) to Tennessee (mile 57.6) which was really fun but I dropped him about 2 miles before Tennessee. I had mixed feelings about that. Celebrating our 17 wedding anniversary on the trail was great. He waved me to go and when I stopped he yelled at me to leave. So like a loving wife

I did what I was told J. On the way into Tennessee I was halted by the awesome sight of a bobcat. He was just strolling down the road without a care in the world. That was pretty cool. Bill got a picture of it.

I left Tennesee in a hurry and anxious to be done and on my way to Napa with Bill for vacation. I tried my hardest to get under 12 but fell short by 4 minutes. Post race my legs were sore! Super sore! I don't know why I feel like I shouldn't be sore. A total screwed sense of reality I suppose. Overall, I loved the new course but climbing out of Pirates Cove near the end is not easy! At least it wasn't for me.

Post race vacation was great. Bill and I spent 3 days in Napa Valley. I was not big wine drinker though. Just could 't enjoy much wine after Miwok. My taste buds were rejecting it.

That's probably the internal governor saying, "You don't need to be any more dehydrated". We walked around a lot which helped my sausage feet and was good recovery. Most of all we got to spend time together with no interruptions or responsibilities. However, Alex called us several time wanting to know when we were coming home. Home now and back at it. Next up is a 30 mile MTB race in Sisters. Bill will be racing on his anniversary present so I am excited to see how he likes it.